A look back at Beach Blanket Babylon’s largest hat
Hold on to your gigantic hats, ladies and gentlemen.
“Beach Blanket Babylon,” the outrageously skewering San Francisco treat that has delighted millions of fans in the City by the Bay, is calling it a day. Closing night is New Year’s Eve at its longtime home, the Club Fugazi in North Beach – a champagne toast to a historic run.
The show’s producer Jo Schuman Silver broke the news to staff before the show’s Wednesday performances, she said in a Thursday interview with The Sacramento Bee.
“It was very hard – I’ve got the best cast and crew in the world. I said, ‘Let’s make the next eight months fabulous,’” Schuman Silver said of a decision she’d been mulling for the past two years.
December’s final shows are still more than half a year away, but Schuman Silver says she’s already thinking about how she’ll feel after the floodlights dim for the last time.
“It’s very sad. We’ll have an amazing New Year, but on Jan. 1, I’ll have wonderful thoughts of what transpired because it’s been a great experience.”
News that this season will be the last for ‘Babylon’ traveled fast.
“We’ve had so many letters from alums. It was the best experience of most everybody’s life,” said Schuman Silver, who has helmed the show since 1995, taking the reins after the death of husband and show creator Steve Silver. “I hope I made the right decision. I think I did.”
One of those alums, Kristina Dizon, is still absorbing the news. The actress and Rocklin native was a 2013 “Babylon” scholarship winner who performed with the company in the break that helped launch her dream.
The Bee caught up with her Thursday on her way to an audition in New York City – her new home as of a week ago – still emotional over Wednesday’s news.
“They’re the reason I went to college, why I’m in New York with an audition. They’re so caring, so talented. As young artists, we got to perform with cast members and you can tell they’re a family,” Dizon said.
“Everybody knows San Francisco, so it’s almost like a historical landmark,” Dizon continued. “Stepping into that environment and performing, you understand what it’s like to be a part of that family. It’s a part of history. My heart’s broken.”
History, indeed. From the days of Watergate and disco’s boogie nights to today’s 24-hour news cycle in the age of Trump, the now-legendary stage show has taken the pulse of pop and political culture for more than four decades – all in unmistakably San Franciscan style.
“Every night, there’s new stuff in the show,” Schuman Silver said, her voice rising. “We used to change the show once a week or twice a week. Now, we change it every day. That’s why the show is always so fresh.”
Outrageous costumes, snarky stage patter, torn-from-the-headlines storylines and, oh, yes, those towering hats, “Beach Blanket Babylon” began as a limited weeks-long engagement 45 years ago – a fractured fairy tale take on Snow White as she searches high and low for her Prince Charming.
Today, some 17,000 performances and 6.5 million people later, the stage show is now the longest running musical revue in the world.
From the beginning, Schuman Silver said, her husband – and San Francisco – knew they had a hit on their hands.
“When Silver debuted the show in 1974, the whole city embraced it immediately,” she said. “We felt at the beginning that we had something special. It’s pretty special, and, of course, only in San Francisco.”